Day of the Dead

Community Altar
Community Altar (Ofrenda), Pan de Muertos behind the squash. Squash, marigolds and food and drink are standard offerings to celebrate the return of loved ones.

Dia de Muertos is an important cultural celebration in many parts of Latin America but especially in Mexico but in Baja it hasn’t been a major event. Baja does not have the typical depth of culture one imagines when thinking of Mexico.  The peninsula is distant from the mainland and different people lived here at the time of the Spanish invasion than on the mainland. The culture here reflects a long history of stoic ranchers heavily influenced by Catholic missions who in turn were heavily influenced by the Moorish occupation of Spain. Some ranching techniques, community values, and artisan crafts can be tied back to skills the Moors brought to Spain. But things in Baja are changing. More mainlanders are moving here and as they settle they bring their cultural traditions with them. I also think the beauty and emotion behind the celebration appeals to people of many walks of life and so Day of the Dead is simply growing in popularity based on its merits. The holiday has been included on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Heritage of Humanity. I am glad it is becoming more popular in our part of Mexico.

Dia de Muertos celebrates death as a part of life by welcoming deceased loved ones for a visit home and sharing their memories. The ofrenda is built with photos, favorite food and drink, special belongings to welcome the dead home. By building the altar, selecting the food, the baseball mitt or hair clip, we focus, we remember, we feel and we do it as a community. It is a happy time. A celebration of reunion. There are parades and public art events. People dress as catrinas (skull faces) and try death on for a day. It’s all very moving and gorgeous. In Todos Santos this year there was a local show featuring live music and dancers, special talks about the traditions, and a blowout concert event featuring “Mexico’s Frank Sinatra.” The last event also featured blowout prices.

Time’s up. Gotta go.

Giant Catrina
Giant Catrina
Giant Catrina
Giant Catrina
Human Catrina
Human Catrina
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Happy Halloween

La Frixcia
La Frixcia

We went big on Halloween. Halloween is our neighbor April’s favorite holiday. When we told her this summer we’d be back in late October she asked me to shop for Halloween costumes for the kids. She also advised me they had all grown substantially in the four months since we left Pescadero. Good thing she did because the kids barely squeezed into outfits I thought would easily be big enough. Childhood obesity in rates in Mexico are second only to the US. Baja Caifornia Sur has the highest obesity rates in the country. Meanwhile, we took the gang trick or treating. The irony was not lost on us. At least they walked.

Halloween has mixed reception in Mexico because it competes/overlaps with Day of the Dead festivities. Of course the origins of both are similar, christian mythology incorporated indigenous pre-exisiting traditions into their All Saints celebrations. In Europe we got Halloween. Today’s Halloween is a lighthearted, superficially spooky affair focused on door to door candy.  In Mexcio the amalgamation resulted in Dia de Muertos and today it is still a complex multi-day festival honoring deceased loved ones and welcoming them home for a visit. I will not attempt a meaningful explanation. There are many ways of celebrating publicly and privately. More in the next post. Back to Halloween here. Halloween in Baja California Sur seems to have been welcomed as a compatible but separate event. You can do both.

Our neighborhood gang gathered at April’s and got to work dressing and face painting. Lots of scary faces. Skulls, spiders, wounds…Glorious gore. After the several hours of this we headed to town for a Trick or Trunk event April had organized. It started slow because we started too early. We milled about with decorated children and cars and big bowls of candy for about 45 minutes. As dark settled around us the goblins of Todos Santos started coming out. Suddenly we were out of candy and it was time to flee as more and more kids started coming by our parked cars. Not to selves: Next year start later and bring more candy. Next we took our 11 kids and 5 adults on a walk through downtown and we hit up restaurants and stores. Many were prepared for the trick or treaters. After that we headed to La Casa de la Abuela. The haunted house!!!! La abuela was a little late getting her place ready so we sang La llorona and sorted out who was ready to go in and who was not ready to go in. Finally at 7:20 Grandma invited us in for a tour but first our group was reorganized by them (a keen psychological trick that separated kids from their favorite companions and heightened their fear). Grandma was in control.

We were group one and I was the front person. We were advised nobody would touch us. Two 8 year old girls and two ten year old boys followed me. Rafa had the back of the line. The girls were terrorized. I was, too, because for the life of me I couldn’t see where to go and the rookie staff wasn’t sure how to guide without touching. Finally a desperate hand grabbed me (shocked, I screamed) and led me through the maze. The exit door we found ourselves stuck. The door was locked. Intentionally or unintentionally? Who knows? So I tried to go back. Goblins said no. Door still locked. We circled a table round and round. Funny, it was the table where I take Spanish class. I new hell had manifested in place of Spanish classes. I was trapped with 4 screaming kids in a room with no exit. I beat on the door. Rafa beat on the door. The room ghoul beat on the door. The door beat back. It did not open. I broke the rules and took some flash free photos. Other groups were backed up behind us. A new ghoul arrived and unlocked the door and we burst free into a slightly less oppressive night.

Immediately all the kids swore they were not scared. I did not disabuse them of this idea while they beat their chests and mocked the abuela but I have proof and I present it below.  Boo to you!

La Yeraska
La Yeraska
La Evely
La Evely
Three kinds of trouble
Three kinds of trouble
Free Candy man
Free Candy man
Hulk
Hulk
Hermione. She was so happy I knew who she was.
Hermione. She was so happy I knew who she was.
Scary family
Scary family
Neighbors
Neighbors
Proof positive.
Proof positive. Abuela got the best of them.
Th egang
Th egang

IMG_E0224

Germani
Germani
Vikki and daughter
Vikki and daughter
Catrina
Catrina
Bumblebee rest
Bumblebee rest
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